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Greedy tea party millionaire owns company that turns away cancer patients

Remember Richard Stephenson, the greedy billionaire who allegedly laundered $12 million to FreedomWorks, the phony tea party group spawned by the Benedict Arnold Koch brothers? 

Stephenson made his money by founding a for-profit cancer treatment company, Cancer Treatment Centers of America. The company boasts of a better-than-average cure rate. 

Today, Reuters issued a special report exposing just how CTCA manages to have such a successful track record: It turns away patients it can't cure. Reports Reuters:

What sets CTCA apart is that rejecting certain patients and, even more, culling some of its patients from its survival data lets the company tout in ads and post on its website patient outcomes that look dramatically better than they would if the company treated all comers. 

CTCA cherry picks its patients. It turns away older, uninsured cancer patients (which of course makes health care more expensive for the rest of us). Again, Reuters reports:

It has relatively few elderly patients, even though cancer is a disease of the aged. It has almost none who are uninsured or covered by Medicaid - patients who tend to die sooner if they develop cancer and who are comparatively numerous in national statistics. 

Carolyn Holmes, a former CTCA oncology information specialist in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said she and others routinely tried to turn away people who "were the wrong demographic" because they were less likely to have an insurance policy that CTCA preferred. Holmes said she would try to "let those people down easy." 

Equally significant, CTCA includes in its outcomes data only those patients "who received treatment at CTCA for the duration of their illness" - patients who have the ability to travel to CTCA locations from the get-go, without seeking local treatment first. That means excluding, for example, those who have exhausted treatment options closer to home and arrive at a CTCA facility with advanced disease. 

CTCA treats far fewer Medicare patients than the nation's cancer treatment facilities as a whole -- 14 percent vs. 53 percent. And it treats almost no Medicaid patients. (Read the whole report here.)

Stephenson is said to be reclusive. We understand why.


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